Last year, the buzz surrounding Konami Gaming centered on the unveiling of its new Las Vegas corporate campus, with its 200,000 square feet of new space added to a renovated core of 160,000 square feet to complete what is now the U.S. arm of an integrated research, development and assembly operation.
This year, the buzz around Konami continues as the company wraps up a year of innovation that maximizes the use of those resources in collaboration between the team in Las Vegas and the slot-maker’s formidable development teams in Australia and Japan (home of its parent company Konami Holdings Corporation, which built its own legend decades ago in the arcade and video-game business).
The keyword in Konami’s efforts to sustain its fast rise in the slot market, particularly in North America, is diversity. The content of the company’s KP3+ and KP3 product portfolios will arrive at this year’s G2E dressed in a variety of new cabinets and form factors that maximize the power of the company’s video and stepper formats.
Matt Reback, Konami’s vice president of marketing, says the company has made a concerted effort to multiply the game styles, cabinets and form factors for its games for a simple reason: Casinos are asking for more.
“Our key strategy this year was derived from listening to our customers, and listening to the market,” Reback says. “As our customers continue to add more and more Konami across their floors, additional diversity will help them continue to find new product areas and new customers.”
He says the diversity will come in the form of new hardware, new software and new product categories. “That’s why we’re so excited about G2E—it’s going to be like kids in a candy store at our booth,” says Reback. “We have an unprecedented release of new products this year.”
“It’s not just our products that are diversifying; patrons of the venues are diversifying as well,” adds Steve Walther, Konami’s senior director of product management. “So, to appeal to a broader sense of who’s coming to these venues, we have to widen our net.”
The net’s actually been widening for some time. In the past 12 months, Konami has released a total of 70 new games, including progressives, new formats like Reeleven and Roku Reels, innovative bonus setups on the signature Rapid Revolver cabinet, new stepper games and more.
It all starts with the high-performing Concerto cabinet launched at G2E last year, which Walther says is “hitting its stride.” Within months after last year’s show, Konami released no less than 10 new KP3+ themes on Concerto, but is also placing proven KP3 titles on the format.
This year, the “Concerto family” will grow to five individual cabinet formats.
Walther outlines five critical factors that have led to the success of Concerto—all of which are present in the new versions of Concerto being released at G2E.
The first is the monitor setup—twin 27-inch, high-definition monitors, positioned edge to edge. “That’s the largest sized monitor available in a standard upright cabinet,” comments Walther.
Second is the “Dynamic Button Deck with Touch Feedback,” a digital button panel that is customizable for different games, but maintains the traditional feel of slot play with actual physical buttons. Third is a unique holographic side lighting. Walther says Konami pioneered the use of edge lighting in its Podium cabinetry, and “now, you can’t see a game on the floor that doesn’t have LED lighting surrounding the screen. We are bringing that same leadership in design to the Concerto cabinet.
“We decided to take it up a notch and add a holographic side lighting element that changes according to the circumstances of the game.”
The fourth element is an optional digital topper with multiple display elements, and the fifth is the sleek black finish behind the screen, which dispenses with the usual chrome. “This allows the cabinet to disappear to give the content a starring role,” Walther says.
These five elements are present in each of four new Concerto cabinets being introduced at G2E. The first is the Concerto Slant, which features a “relaxed-angle posture” for the dual 27-inch monitors to allow for player comfort. It also features improved sightlines to fit in seamlessly on the operator’s floor. “We’ve taken great care to make sure this is considerably shorter than the standard upright,” says Reback.
The Concerto Slant is compatible with the full library of KP3 and KP3+ video slots—a ready-made library at launch—but will be featured at G2E with Jester’s Mirror, a new game in the Xtra Reward series centered around the company’s mirroring wild reels—any full-reel wilds appearing on any but the center reel are “mirrored” to replace symbols across the center axis.
Konami also is bringing its popular multi-game product to Concerto. Concerto SeleXion features all the five Concerto strong points, as well as everything that has made the SeleXion product popular with operators—in particular, the near-instant transition between games on the multi-game menu. “Other multi-games have had their problems, with either loading times or only having a limited number of games,” explains Walther. “We opened up SeleXion to be a-la-carte; the customers can pick whatever games they want and however many games they want.”
According to Reback, Concerto SeleXion increases the number of games available on the multi-game unit from eight to 10, giving the operators the option to include or display as many as they like. It can additionally support a stand-alone progressive bonus, with the only limitation being that KP3 and KP3+ games cannot be mixed on the format.
The Concerto treatment is applied to the curved-monitor premium space with Concerto Crescent, featuring a curved 43-inch portrait monitor angled toward the player in an ergonomically friendly configuration. The curved monitor carries all the other vital features of Concerto—the dramatic black background to the reels, the holographic side lighting, the digital topper and dynamic buttons—with the curved portrait monitor used as the basis for launch games on the KP3+ platform that were specifically designed for the format.
The first is Dragon Fury, which takes full advantage of the 43-inch portrait display with an expanding reel feature that takes the reels up to eight rows high, for spins on a 120-line reel grid. The base reel format is a 7-8-8-8-7 setup (seven symbols on the outer two rows; eight symbols on the middle rows), in a 120-line game. The number of high-paying dragon symbols increases during free games.
Pharaoh’s Fury applies the concept to an Egyptian theme, featuring extra wild symbols in the free-game feature.
The same two launch games are featured on Concerto Stack, a flat-screen option employing the same game dimensions as the Crescent cabinet. The 43-inch flat-screen monitor offers operators a choice to tailor games to their specific space needs.
Walther says the product roadmap for Concerto Crescent and Concerto Stack envisions progressive versions of the two launch games, which could be launched some time next year.
Bringing it Together
All the new formats and cabinets will join an already-rich collection of cabinets, bonus hardware and core video and stepper slots in Konami’s “candy store” of a display at G2E. New games will be shown in formats from the unique Rapid Revolver to the giant Podium Goliath and everything in between.
Among the highlights in the KP3+ core video category is Jackpot Ball, a unique four-level progressive game featuring a pinball/pachinko-style bonus game.
“We’ve had success with a game called Jackpot Streams, featuring a coin pusher-style game,” says Walther. “We asked ourselves what else would give that midway arcade feel. We came up with a physical pinball-style game on a KP3+ base game.”
The bonus features pinballs launching and falling through a pachinko-style board toward prize buckets at the bottom, which include the progressives. Along the way, it can drop into locking credit holes as in pinball. “It’s a hybrid of pinball and pachinko, and pachinko is in our heritage,” says Reback. “It is a digital presentation of an arcade-style game.”
Walther says the pachinko ball-drop, a mystery event, uses true odds to determine the prize, with a one-in-seven chance at a progressive.
New KP3 products include China Shores Jackpot, a four-level progressive version of China Shores, a popular game featuring free spins that can go into the hundreds. “We kept the free-spin feature in China Shores Jackpot, but added a stand-alone, four-level integrated progressive,” Walther says.
The progressive trigger is three or more yin/yang symbols, each awarding a random number of spins for the progressive prize wheel. “Each spin is a guaranteed progressive award, so theoretically, you could get a string of Maxi progressives, or any combination of Mini, Major, Mega and Maxi jackpots,” says Walther.
Another KP3 highlight is Moonlight Fox, designed for the Rapid Revolver format, which features a central bonus display of six stacked, horizontally spinning reels. It is a three-level stand-alone progressive product, with a base game in a 576-ways-to-win format.
Also featured is the Brothers of Fortune linked progressive game, an Asian-themed game with four linked progressive jackpots triggered by a bonus wheel.
Konami is launching innovative new games in similar grandeur for its Titan 360 series. Launched in 2013 with the game Rise to Wealth, the Titan 360 places eight individual slant-top slots around a central mechanical, arcade-style bonus game.
That original game features a large physical wheel. Balls are launched into the display, falling into one of several slots to award a bonus prize or progressive. Titan 360 continues to carry broad popularity, even launching its next new theme: Dragon’s Orb Jackpots. In the bonus of the new game, a dragon spins an orb, which ends up being a silver bar ball or a gold bar ball, which goes into one of the prize holes.
In the same spirit as Titan 360, Konami is introducing another multi-station development called Crystal Cyclone that uses a mystery trigger to enact a bonus game on a center unit device shared by all the players. Several balls can be released from the stacker device at once, so several players can participate in the bonus game at the same time.
Reback says the power of this format is demonstrated in how players react when the ball is spinning around the display searching for a prize spot. “There are players cheering, spectators cheering,” he says. “One of the things Konami does well is this physical, gravity-activated, arcade-style game that elicits a communal style of play you cannot get on a video game. True laws of physics will determine your fate, and that’s something you can’t replicate.”
Another new multi-station game coming to G2E is Fortune Cup, a multi-station horse-racing game on a central miniature track that incorporates both the amusement-game and video-game skills of the parent company.
Walther notes that much attention was given to detail in creating the arcade-style track. “Each horse is fully articulated—legs, rider—and they move around the track,” Walther says. “These horses can move in either direction, so we’ll be able to change up the way the races are run. And they move around the field. We can do different-sized races.”
Walther says Fortune Cup can even be set up in a stadium configuration, with multiple betting terminals around the physical racetrack and video of the races shown on an overhead projection screen, utilizing Konami Digital Entertainment’s proprietary graphics engine, which is also used for Konami’s console video games, to create photo-realistic imagery. “It is a great example of how we work with other divisions within Konami,” says Reback.
The game also offers several different betting structures replicating trifectas, quenelles and other actual track and race-book wagers.
Finally, Konami, as always, will offer complete demonstrations of improvements to its highly regarded Synkros casino management system, including use of the Acres Kai mobile alert system to improve customer service and enhance the personal marketing that can be offered by a casino.
There also will be demonstrations of Konami’s progress on the interactive side, from online for-money to social gaming presentations of Konami titles, and use of mobile apps through the company’s remote game server.
The highlighted products in the Konami lineup this year are only a slice of what is to be expected in a G2E display that will top all previous trade shows for the company. New games for the Podium Goliath, Podium Monument and other form factors will combine with multi-station, Concerto and the rest to offer the kind of diversity customers have been asking for.
“The diversity of product we are offering at G2E shows how Konami is exploding with new content and new cabinets,” says Walther. “This is the most new cabinets and form factors we’ve ever had, by a long shot.”
“This is all made possible by our newly expanded headquarters,” adds Reback. “This facility was built to increase the size of our R&D department so we could build these types of products.
“Konami’s floor share has been soaring over this same time, reaching 15-20 percent share of casino floors across the U.S. Our customers are telling us, ‘You need to bring new product categories out, because your products continue to be the best-performing products on our floor.’ That’s what we’ve done.”
“Konami has made strategic investments in our new state-of-the-art facility, our R&D department, and new partnerships designed to support existing business and fuel continued growth,” says Steve Sutherland, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Konami Gaming. “At G2E this year, the market will experience the results of these investments as we unveil our most diverse lineup of high-quality games and systems products ever.”